The problems of putting poetry to music are evident in both Joni Mitchell's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" and Patti Smith's "Horses."
Joni Mitchell showed that it's possible to take purely personal experiences, however insignificant, and make a universally enjoyable album in "Blue." She aimed a bit more at the sales figures with last year's highly successful "Court and Spark."
In "Hissing," she again tries to provide a melody for her short stories. The word pictures are great, but sometimes fail to generate excitement musically.
Most ungainly is "The Jungle Line" midway through side one in which she attempts to record using only her acoustic guitar and a heavy, continuous drum line. The pounding sounds like natives beating hollow logs and, indeed, is credited to "the warrior drums of Burundi." A good idea that rapidly grows monotonous.
Patti Smith suffers from much the same problem. Her reputation as a poetess-singer prompted a visit to her New York club by Dylan and a quick album.
At its best, "Horses" is high-energy rock a la Lou Reed. At its worst, it's a free form, speed-freak rap with the words coming in isolated phrases, many unintelligible, so it's hard to determine what she's so excited about.
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